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Book cover for They called us enemy

They called us enemy

By George Takei, Justin Eisinger, et al.

Length: 208 pages

Rating: 9.5/10

First Published: 2019

Get it: UK 🇬🇧 | US 🇺🇸 | Amazon 🌐

Last read: 2021

After the Pearl Harbor attack, many Japanese-Americans in the US were forced out of their homes by the government and put in military camps.

This graphic novel is a memoir about George Takei’s life that focuses on his family’s experience in internment. George (famous for Sulu in Startrek and Hiro’s dad in Heroes) was 4 years old when his family left their home.

The book goes through many historical events, like the loyalty questionnaire, the citizenship trials, and how his mother almost got deported.

Disclaimer: There’s a controversy about the correct term for the camps. That’s beyond the scope of this. It’s a book review.

I remembered being stunned when my friend told me about the internment. It seems most history curricula in Europe just skipped it.

The art

Hello
The back cover is a combo of the US flag and the Rising Sun flag.

The art is greyscale, light and soft, with round shapes. Nothing particularly violent is ever showed in the book so it works well.

./Landscape art
Landscapes and features are flatter and more precise, which I like.

There’s always a fine line creative balance to strike when depicting humans in complex, historical events. You want to represent reality but not too much. Maus is the most extreme example, simplifying humans to mouse, rats or dogs.

Hello
Harmony Becker’s drawings are simple with just enough details for emotions.

Summary

George speaks fondly about his mother’s attitude. No matter what happened, she was determined to create a pleasant experience for her children.

They were first put in the Rohwer Relocation Center, in Arkansas. It was hot and humid, but they made friends and collaboration was prevalent. The family spent 1 year and 7 months in Arkansas. Then, they were moved to Tule Lake, where the atmosphere was a lot more tense.

He mentions Herbert Nicholson from Vroman bookstore who always helped people in the camps. I’m always amazed by actions like this. They remind me of this quote from The Hobbit.

I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
— J. R. R. Tolkien

George spent a total of 4 years behind wires.

The rest of the books breezes through the rest of his adult life. Here are a few noteworthy events:

  • Back in LA after the camps, he remembers a teacher giving him a hard time for no reason.
  • He met and protested with Martin Luther King.
  • Startrek was the best time of his life. His fame gave him reach to share and advance his ideas.
  • In 1991, he got $20000 cash as an excuse from the US government.

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